Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thoughts On Day 2

Our first complete shocker: No, not Cleveland State. The shocker of the day was Dayton over West Virginia. In West Virginia you had a very dangerous team with insane computer numbers (Top Ten in both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR coming in). And Dayton was by far the worst at-large team. Remember, I always stress the difference between the best teams and the best resumes: Dayton did not have the worst resume among at-large teams, and they were not one of the last two or three teams into the bracket, but their resume was far better than their actual team. I thought that other than the 1, 2 and 3 seeds, West Virginia was the absolute safest team of the day. I go back when I miss a game in my bracket and try to understand what I did wrong: for example, I missed the BYU/Texas A&M game, and I realized that I was too blinded by the numbers, and BYU's numbers weren't better by enough to counter the vast intuitive sense I had watching all of the games this season that A&M was just the far better team. But I still don't know how anybody could have rationalized picking Dayton. I'm shocked.

A number of other upsts... just as we expected: As I told you yesterday morning, we had to expect more upsets on Friday. Besides my intuition that Day ones that are upset free are followed by upset-filled Day twos, you just had a ton of opportunities. I told you to pick Wisconsin, and considered Arizona a near-lock. Of course, I also put West Virginia in the Sweet 16, and I stil don't understand what happened in that game. The Midwest had the most upsets, but that's what we all expected. Utah State was the one upset I picked that didn't come through, but it was a 1 point game, including one of those classic gambling moments when a final shot does not alter the result of the game, but flips the gambling spread of the game. Always love those.

The one upset that a lot of people think is bigger than it really was is Cleveland State over Wake Forest. The margin of victory is a big surprise, but not the fact that Cleveland State won. If you'd watched Wake Forest all season long you knew that they played their best ball against elite teams, and stunk it up against bad teams. There was no doubt in my mind that Wake's second round game would be easier for them than their first round game. If they could have made it to the Sweet 16 they very well might have beaten Louisville. But they could have derailed it all by getting out to a terrible start against a team they figured they'd blow away in round one, which is exactly what happened. We'll see how many players from this Wake Forest team return for next season. They are extremely talented, but they are extremely young, and in the end it was their inexperience and immaturity that did them in this year. They'll be far better next season if they can get the key parts to come back.

Don't get too excited, Big 12 fans: They did got 6-0 in the first round, but I always warn people that records are not everything. You wouldn't say that College of Charleston is better than Ohio State because they went 24-6 and Ohio State went 22-11, so don't be so quick to say that one conference did better than another because they had a better record. Look at the individual teams in performances. Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State all played very well. But Kansas and Missouri both struggled badly with vastly inferior 14 seeds. Oklahoma's performance wasn't good or bad, they just did what they were supposed to do against the weakest 15 seed. So three teams overperformed and two underperformed. I wouldn't get too excited about this performance until we see how these teams do in the second round. It was a very good performance by the Big 12, but they weren't (in my opinion) the best performing conference in round one.

And the best conference in the first round was...: In my opinion, this isn't even a question. It's the Pac-10. Just look at what they did up and down the bracket. Washington looked very impresive in a blowout victory, as did USC in just embarrassing BC. I thought Arizona would beat Utah, but the game wasn't even close at any point. Arizona State and UCLA both had solid victories against tough opponents. The only team that didn't play that well was Cal, but that wasn't really an upset. I think most of us picked Maryland in our brackets, and the game was very close until the last ten minutes or so. They may have only gone 5-1, but relative to expectations I don't think there's any question that the Pac-10 had the best first round.

The ACC is not off to a very good start: Their 3-4 record is a little bit skewed. Clemson and Florida State were both teams that we expected to lose. Wake Forest played badly, as did Boston College, but those were the only two that really underplayed their expectations. Maryland looked great against Cal, and both North Carolina and Duke are still sitting around as legitimate Final Four teams (in fact, I think both teams are the favorites in their respective brackets). I still think the ACC is the best conference in the country. I just think that the gap between them and the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-10 is smaller than we thought. The SEC still sucks, though.

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